Getting into the rhythm with Paul KasticK

The Jamaican drummer talks about international touring and ties to Cayman

Paul KasticK is the drummer for Maxi Priest and Big Mountain, while also producing other acts.

Any band will tell you that to really bring the energy, you have got to have a solid drummer. From Gene Krupa to Dave Grohl, Questlove and Sheila E., many have made names for themselves not as frontpeople, but as the heart of the group they play for.

Paul KasticK may not be a name familiar to you, but in the music world, he is one of the kings of the sticks. The likes of Maxi Priest and Big Mountain rely on him to provide the beats for their big hits and he has travelled all over the world to support award-winning artists. KasticK also has a big connection with the Cayman Islands, and has worked with local musicians and singers both as a drummer and producer.

On his last trip to Grand Cayman, we asked him what it is like to be in the business and who some of his dream collaborators would be.

Where were you born?
Montego Bay, Jamaica

When did you first have a real interest in becoming a musician?
From as early as 9 years old. I gravitated towards the marching bands in Montego Bay; it was the only thing that excited all of us as kids in Montego Bay those days – it was a very big deal.

How did you train to become a drummer?
[I am] actually self-taught to a certain degree, but my high school (Herbert Morrison Technical High School) in Montego Bay had the Indiana State University start our music and band programme in 1980. I got interested in the band orchestra playing the snare drum and bass drum, which taught us to read music. An orchestral arrangement of the ‘Hawaii Five-0’ theme song was the very first piece of music I had to learn to read and play.

What was your first big gig and how did it feel to perform in front of a large audience?
After high school and college, I went straight into playing with bands in Montego Bay and my band Zenith eventually became one of the top bands in the city. We started opening [for] huge shows at Hilgrams Entertainment Complex.

Our first [big] concert was opening for Billy Paul (of ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’ fame). [We were] crazy [excited]. We rehearsed for days upon days and bought all new clothes for that gig because we knew the cream of the crop was coming out for the show that Saturday night. We had to make an impression and we did!

Do you get nervous before you perform?
There’s a certain amount of nervous anxiety that used to come over me back in the day, but I’ve gotten control of it nowadays.

Who are some of the drummers you idolise?
Desmond Gaynor of Sagittarius Band, Desi Jones from Chalice, Willie Stewart from Third World, Alex Van Halen of Van Halen and Steve Smith of Journey, to name a few.
Sly Dunbar, drummer for Black Uhuru, Grace Jones and Mick Jagger, as well as a producer for multiple artists worldwide is someone I wanted to be from my high school years.

Who are your favourite bands/singers, past and present?
There are so many; everyone from Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Maxi Priest and Prince to Def Leppard, Metallica, Adam Lambert and Imagine Dragons.

Any favourite bands or artists you have played with?
I’d have to say Big Mountain, just because I’ve been instrumental in producing and co-writing most of their albums since joining the group in 1998. I left Shaggy to join that band, and it’s an entirely different feeling and sense of accomplishment when you are playing something that you helped to build from the ground up. Trust me, it’s a whole ‘nother level of satisfaction, so Big Mountain it is.
Diana King is another favourite, because I just love and respect her talents and I’m an integral part of her live show. She welcomes my input from a production and arrangement standpoint and set list choices, etc. And of course, Maxi Priest, because his vocals are next to none and he keeps me on my toes at all times [laughs].

You’ve been visiting Cayman for a number of years – are you working with any musicians here, and if so, who?
Mr. Notch, Daniel Augustine and Shane Allenger of Hi Tide. I’m meeting more artists in Cayman every time I’m here, so the future is bright with collaborations in Cayman Islands.

Who is the dream performer for you to play with?
I used to dream of playing for Michael Jackson back in the day. I was obsessed with Alanis Morissette for a long time and I also really admire Pink more than most.

What has been the most exciting gig you’ve played thus far?
Hard to say – there are so many. Definitely Reggae Sunsplash 1990 in Montego Bay [is one of them]. It was very special for me because it was my first time playing in my hometown with 809 band. That was the band that took me from Montego Bay to my touring career in Kingston in 1989. I had a whole squad behind me backstage cheering me on!

It was a big deal for a kid from Montego  Bay to be playing for such a huge band and it was monumental, the support I was getting from all my friends in the local bands in Montego Bay.

Arriving in South Africa in 1996 with Shaggy was mind-blowing, due to the history of the place. I felt like I was going home to my heritage. It was very special for me touring South Africa; this was just three years after Nelson Mandela was freed, so imagine!

Solomon Islands with Big Mountain 2016 was crazy. I didn’t know people so far away knew songs that I had produced with the band, lyric-for-lyric, which was very gratifying, to say the least.

Playing for Harry Belafonte in Kingston in 1993 at the Jamaica house is another memorable gig. After the performance, he parted the crowd, passed everybody and said he wanted to ‘meet that drummer’; I was in shock! [Laughs] He invited us as special guests for his performance two days later at King’s House in Kingston.

MTV Awards in Paris at Le Zenith Arena with Diana King also still stands out for me.

Do you have any interesting stories from past performances?
I fell at the foot of my drum riser one night in front of the whole audience while trying to do a high jump from the stage – that was very embarrassing.
A whole stage lighting rig fell on us during soundcheck in 1996 and five of my band members – including Shaggy – got injured and were rushed to hospital. I had no injuries, but it was a sad moment for all of us and two of the next shows were cancelled. This was in Poznan, Poland.

Where will you be touring this year?
Japan, Hawaii, South Africa, Europe, Eastern Europe with the band Enigma and Asia.

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